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Women in their 60s move more than same-aged men, study finds

Turku University research suggests that older working women are more physically active then older working men, both at work and in their leisure time.

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Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Women in their 60s move more than men of the same age when it comes to occupational and leisure-time physical activities, according to a new study from the University of Turku in southwest Finland.

"Gender differences during the workday are partially explained by the varying work patterns and the physical activity associated with women having longer commutes to work. Women of this generation also tend to do more housework than men, and measuring devices worn on the wrist pick up this kind of activity easily," says Anna Pulakka, a public health researcher at Turku University and main author of the study.

The women in the study were equally active in their free time as they were on the job. Men, on the other hand, tended to be more physically active off the job.

The study was based on data from 878 older municipal employees. Each of the participants in the research agreed to wear an accelerometer on their non-dominant wrist for at least four days, to track their physical activity levels. The mean age of the study participants was 62.4.

Commutes are activity peaks

As expected, 24-hour physical activity patterns were markedly different between people with professions that required manual or sedentary work. The Finnish researchers were nevertheless surprised to find that no differences existed between the professions when it came to leisure-time physical activity patterns.

Results indicate that workers with better-paid positions were more likely to engage in physical activity in their leisure time.

The study revealed two peaks of activity during the working day, one in the morning from 6 to 8 am and another in the afternoon from 4 to 6 pm. Results suggest that the most physical activity of the day for older worker was associated with commuting back and forth to work and various work activities.

"It would be important to encourage and promote active commutes to work more than we do at present. Employees that sit most of the day and men in particular should also be encouraged to increase their activity levels during the workday, for example, by using the stairs instead of the elevator and taking breaks to walk around a bit," says docent Sari Stenholm, research director of the FIREA project.

The research was part of Turku University's Finnish Retirement and Aging (FIREA) project, which seeks to assess the changes that occur in people's lifestyles, health and functionality when they retire. Physical activity is associated with ageing workers' ability to work, and is a good predictor of whether they will be able to work beyond their official retirement age, if they wish.

The study's findings were published in the Occupational & Environmental Medicine journal.

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